23,000 Students Are Homeless in San Diego County

Only a small percentage of students deemed homeless are actually living on the street.

Almost 23,000 students in one California county were considered homeless last school year by the San Diego County Office of Education.

The students were enrolled in schools within multiple districts in the county, although many categorized as homeless are not actually living on the streets.

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The majority of the children labeled homeless by the department are ‘doubled up,’ meaning their families are sharing a home with others due to financial burden, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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The San Diego Unified School District, by far the largest district in the county, had a total of 7,326 students categorized as homeless. That figure represents 5.7 percent of the student population.
Here is the department’s breakdown of homeless SDUD students during the 2015-2016 school year.

  • 5,620 students’ families had ‘doubled up’ with others for housing
  • 705 students lived in temporary shelters
  • 284 were living in hotels or motels
  • 137 were unsheltered

The Vista Unified School District had 2,443 homeless students, which made up ten percent of the overall student population. Of those students, 35 were unsheltered.

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The South Bay Union School District had 1,566 homeless students, accounting for 21 percent of its student population. Five of those students were unsheltered.

The Escondido Union Elementary School District had 1,136 homeless students, or 12.5 percent of the student population. Thirty three of those students were unsheltered.

The figures are self-reported, which can lead to errors in data collection, says Michelle Lustig, the director of Foster Youth Services, Coordinating Program and Homeless Education Services.

The federal government passed the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act in 1987 to require school districts to gather data about homeless students. The act also created a competitive grant for districts with at least 5,000 homeless students who can present a plan for how they will use the money. Only 60 districts across the country received financial assistance in the last round of funding.

In 2014, the San Diego County Office of Education received a $750,000 grant, to be dispersed in payments of $250,000 over three years. The office has used the money for professional development, technical assistance, collection of data, a school-supply drive and for items such as shoes, backpacks and dental supplies.

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